Pettis Competition Provides Coaching and Cash to Student Entrepreneurs
The Pettis Family Entrepreneurship Award Business Plan Competition annually grants seed money and guidance to support student entrepreneurial endeavors.
At SUNY Brockport, funding to pursue an entrepreneurial dream is at students’ fingertips — they just have to win it.
The Pettis Family Entrepreneurship Award Business Plan Competition annually provides students an opportunity to compete for up to $2,000 to invest in an original business idea.
This year, six self-formed student venture teams composed of two to five undergraduate or graduate students were chosen to compete in the fourth annual competition held on Scholars Day. Selection was based on the executive summaries of their business plans submitted during a screening round, in which they described their business model and strategy, the key benefits and values of their product or service offering, their competitive position, and their markets and customers.
Julie Pettis established the Pettis Family Entrepreneurship Award in memory of her parents, the late Larry ’53 and Erma ’53 Pettis, who were active supporters of the Brockport alumni community.
“After my mom passed away, it became very important to me to establish a lasting tribute to both of my parents,” said Pettis. “As I reflected on their lives and all they had accomplished together, it occurred to me it all started at Brockport.”
Pettis believes Brockport students make a significant impact on the futures of our communities, and she wanted to create a gateway for them to do so. She calls the competition “Shark Tank for students.”
On competition day, competitors take turns pitching their ideas to a judging panel of internal and external business experts in 10-minute oral presentations and 5-minute Q&A sessions, a process coordinated by associate professor in the School of Business Administration and Economics Lerong He.
“Many students often think about starting their own businesses but rarely progress beyond that,” said Dean of the School Joy Bhadury, who served on the judging panel this year. “This competition gives them an opportunity to give structure to those ideas and get feedback from informed judges on the feasibility thereof.”
For the first time in Pettis competition history, three of the six teams were awarded seed money to pursue their ventures. The $1,000 grand prize was earned by a four-person team that pitched an idea for a limited liability accounting firm called Ellsworth, Green & Gold, LLC, specializing in the needs of small governmental clients.
Dawn Footer, a graduate student studying forensic accounting, conceived the idea for the firm. Her classmates Lauren Frank, Mike Incardona, and Yurong Zhang joined in on her efforts.
“These types of events allow you to test yourself against other students who come from diverse backgrounds,” said Footer. “Competitions require students to stretch outside of their comfort zones and think, analyze, and create in ways that are not commonly found in an undergraduate or even graduate classroom.”
Will the team pursue their venture upon graduation? According to Footer, it is a possibility.
“Even if they do not end up starting their own entrepreneurial ventures, the very process of developing a business plan makes them better as future employees of other organizations,” said Bhadury.
The winning team competed in the statewide 2017 New York Business Plan Competition, one of the largest collegiate business plan competitions in the world that grants more than $500,000 in prizes annually. Their plan was chosen for the semi-final round at Rochester Institute of Technology and as an alternate in the services division for the finals in Albany.
“My parents took a risk more than 50 years ago by starting a swimming pool business in Hilton, NY,” said Pettis. “It is that same ‘go for it’ attitude, dedication, perseverance, and integrity we are hoping to ignite in the students who participate in the annual competition for this award. I love the idea of students understanding that their power to create is limitless, and all it takes is one good idea to catch on fire — and a lot of hard work — to change their lives.”